Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Palm Tree Rendevous

It reminds me of what a Rocky Mountain Rendezvous must have been like.

The rendezvous was an annual gathering from 1825 through 1840 at which trappers and mountain men sold their furs and hides and replenished their supplies. The large fur companies held these events at various locations throughout the west and northwest. Rendezvous were known to be lively, joyous places, where all were allowed and none exempt. Kind of reminds me of home.

The Coachella Valley and its collective communities are pretty unique in that as’ the season’ come alive so too does the entire valley. Its composure, complexity and personality seem to awaken from its summer doldrums. Much like the early mountain men who came to trade summer experiences and entertain with tall tales, so too the Valley becomes a mecca for travelers escaping the harsh reality of winter back home.

Personal choices, circumstances and seasonal events all conspire to draw people to the desert during the winter months. For many it is a return to their other lives. It’s going back to the flip side of their second life.

Unlike the other valley cities, Palm Springs morphs into a different kind of animal than its desert neighbors. Among the various cities spread out down the Valley, Palm Springs remains unique in its eclectic collection of melting pots and the characters who brew there.

Down valley is more a culture of ‘the seasonal elite’ where folks gather around their country club scene. They love to swap tales from back home, golf, attend social events, become part of high society again and live the illusion that is the ‘Palm Springs Lifestyle.’

There are more social events than a calendar can accommodate. It begins in early January with the Palm Springs International Film Festival then moves on to Food and Wine Week, the Southwest Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club, Broadway performances at the McCullum Theater, Restaurant Week, Art under the Umbrellas, Modernism Week, Fashion Week and a plethora of social and cultural events. On the tail end of these hedonistic experiences are Coachella, Stagecoach and the beginnings of Splash Summer.

 For the casual outsider, it’s a fascinating smorgasbord of people of similar ages, abilities, interests and opinions brought together in the desert to mix and match and stir up the pot together.  Always a very colorful collection of individuals brought together by a distain for cold weather, old friendships, a love of the desert. Each bringing with them a wealth of life experiences to share.

Unlike those communities down valley, Palm Springs marches to its down tin drummer. There is less of a concentration of ‘casual serious money’ and more ‘real world reality’ performing on stage here.

For many weekend visitors from the coast it can be a quick mix up and a drink. For the younger set it can be a wild weekend or a lost one for that matter. For others, it’s a refreshing change of pace from their normal lives or just an excuse to play golf.

Trendy hotels like the ACE, the Saguaro and soon the Curve all cater toward the hipsters, trendsetters and people in the know. Downtown nightclubs fuel the uninhibited revelers and the more art conscious are drawn to the Art and Design District, the Backstreet Art Gallery and other galleries scattered about town.

Unlike the more refined and cultured blue-hair environment of the Rancho Mirage Library or those in surrounding communities, the Palm Springs library is a gathering spot unique among others. At times it can seem like a world unto its own.

Aside from the usual literary crowd of retirees, snow birds and casual visitors, the library attracts many other seekers. Those include the homeless, the unemployed, the poor, the elderly, local high-schoolers as well as those seeking to improve themselves through self-study. They all crowd the library’s book stacks, magazine racks and computer lab for enlightenment. Parents help their kids with homework or mentor the less fortunate.

When the occasional mood calls my hangouts include Koffi, Starbucks and Ristretto. Each attracts its own curious collection of tourists, local bohemians, camp followers and the occasional visitor looking for companionship.

Aside from the communal gathering spots with a friend I find the most enlightenment in my own private nests about town. It might be a rocky outcropping among the crags and fissures that are the mountains surrounding Palm Springs. It might be a stone bench in back or a wooded trail back home.

Anyplace where I can get lost in my mind and discover the hidden truths lingering there.

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